‘Our Voice’: the lived experience of vulnerability of a Roma Gypsy Travelling Community

Authors: Heaslip, V.

Start date: 23 June 2016

Background: People can experience feeling vulnerable whenever their health/usual function is compromised, increasing when they enter unfamiliar surroundings/situations or relationships. Vulnerability can also be heightened through interaction between the individual and society; as such it is a dynamic concept. Yet this complex, elusive phenomenon is ill defined within the literature. Roma Gypsy Travellers (RGT) are often identified as a vulnerable community due to increased morbidity/mortality as well as their marginalised status, yet the perspective of individuals within this community have not been heard. As such, how do we know how, and in what way, individual RGT may feel vulnerable? This paper shall present the lived experience of vulnerability of a RGT community, identified through a PhD study.

Methods: Individual and group interviews were untaken with GRT across the South West of England during 2013-14. The study consisted of two phases; breadth phase utilising narrative interviews followed by a depth phase illuminating the essence of vulnerability using Descriptive Phenomenology.

Results: The breadth phase identified four facets of vulnerability, one of which related to being part of a cultural group whose identity was under threat. This last facet of vulnerability was incredibly evocative, as such, it was the phenomenon explored during the depth phase. During the depth phase six constituents of vulnerability were identified.

Conclusions: This study illuminates a light on experiences of vulnerability of a largely hidden group within society, presenting their voice alongside the academic discourse. In doing so, it presents an alternative picture which can assist in understanding some of the poorer health outcomes experienced by this community.

Main messages: In order to address health inequalities experienced by RGT it is fundamental to understand their lived experienced of vulnerability. Only then will services be developed that are culturally sensitive.

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